The Braves in North Port and the Rays in Port Charlotte may attract the most media attention, but the Snowbird Baseball Classic once again proved to be a multi-million dollar success for the region.
Nineteen Division I and 25 Division III teams participated in the 11th annual Snowbird Baseball Classic which ran from Feb. 15-March 22 this year at various sports venues in the county, the Punta Gorda Englewood Beach Visitor and Convention Bureau reports.
A total of 13,120 people attended the games this year. That includes the 1,820 people related to the team such as coaches, players, trainers and other staff. Out-of-towners spent an average of 7.3 nights here in more than 23,300 room-nights at county accommodations, according to the county’s consulting research group which issued its economic impact analysis Friday.
The economic impact of those games is estimated at $8.7 million of direct spending by out-of-towners during those five weeks, including spectators and teams.
“The Snowbird Baseball Classic has grown to be the largest spring baseball gathering of Division I schools in the country and is attracting top Division III teams too,” said Steven Partington, tournament director.
Those players, coaches, families and fans also spend money for restaurants, shops, rental cars, event admission, entertainment and local attractions, creating a total impact calculated at about $13 million.
While the number of teams remains similar to five years ago — the last time the county paid for an analysis — the benefits have risen substantially along with the number of attendees. In 2014, the total benefit was calculated at $9 million, including direct and indirect spending. The number of attendees was 9,992.
The county’s Sports Marketing Manager Sean Doherty said reasons for the increase are hard to calculate, in part because the county has switched research companies. Some teams bring more spectators, he said. The biggest monetary impact may be the increase in the cost of hotel rooms, he said, and the fact that tourists are spending more.